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About the Author  – Margaret Ferguson

 I have lived in Putty, firstly as a weekender and now full time for nearly forty years.  Over these years I have located and saved many items of interest which relate to the early history of Putty.  I have discovered documents in the Government archives and Gazettes, the R.A.H.S journals. Copies of newspaper advertisements and articles included in the National Library of Australia website “Trove” have provided me with a wealth of information.  As well as these sites, I have sourced information from “” and webpages.

What else to do with all the scraps of paper I have but to put the information they contain all together in one place.   What follows is information I have discovered about the people and the development of Putty during its first one hundred years.  My story may not be entirely factual or correct but it is the closest to which I could arrive. 

I recognise and pay respect to the Aboriginals who roamed the district well before white man arrived, in particular, the Wonnarua people, the clan which claimed Putty.  

I dedicate my story to the pioneer settlers in Putty who were here long before me and are now long gone. 

veni, vidi, vici.   Julius Caesar -  BC47


                                                                                        Margaret Ferguson © 2016             


Chapter 1 – The beginning

 It was the early 1800’s and Lachlan Macquarie was Governor of NSW.  The Hawkesbury and the Hunter River had both been discovered and were being used for shipping cargo to inland destinations but an overland route between the two ports was urgently required.  It was known that bushranging convicts were regularly moving cattle stolen from the Windsor district to a ready market north and that there was a track through to the Hunter River area already established by them. With the convicts not giving up any clues to the whereabouts of this track, Macquarie was given the job of finding it and tidying it up to establish the route from Windsor to the Hunter Valley.

In October 1817, the first Government sponsored expedition left Windsor to find a suitable way through.  Mr. William Parr led the expedition and was accompanied by Mr. Benjamin Singleton and Mr. Simms Bell.  On 12th November, 1817, the party reached an area known by the local natives as “B’pooty.  But things were not going well for the expedition party.  Because of a bit of a difference of opinion, and the natives lighting fires to scare the explorers away, the expedition was abandoned and they all returned to Windsor. In April 1818, Benjamin Singleton regrouped with a new team and successfully reached the Hunter River giving his name to the township on his way through.

Governor Macquarie was not happy.  He just didn’t want the area explored, he wanted it explored AND surveyed.  So he gave the job to the Chief Constable at Windsor, Mr. John Howe.  Howe, with six other men set out on the 24th October 1819 and on the sixth day out, after travelling through rough and mountainous country, descended into the “Puttee” valley. Howe described Puttee “as a good and extensive valley with many branches and plenty of good food.  It has a large creek running through it interspersed with large ponds and lagoons.  In my opinion an excellent place for cattle in a dry season but not good in a wet one.”  Howe and his team reached the Hunter on the eleventh day and returned to Windsor another eleven days later. He presented Governor Macquarie with his written report and field book, distances and bearings calculated by using his pocket compass and watch.  He also put in a bill for 76 pounds, 14 shillings and 6 pence for expenses.

With a view to develop the “new territory”, Governor Macquarie set about promising land to those he thought would get the place up and running. The favoured gentry included a Mrs. Hannah Laycock. Hannah’s husband had died in 1809 but she remained independently highly regarded with the means to support herself and her family, both unusual for a woman of that time. 

She and her daughters Rebecca and Elizabeth, all residing at Botany Bay, were each promised 100 acres with the orders dated 31st October, 1813.  Her son Samuel, residing in Liverpool, was also promised 100 acres. Previous to these orders was a promise of 500 acres, made in June 1811 to her son William, who resided at Georges River. Mrs. Laycock already owned property granted to her by the previous Governor, Philip Gidley King. She named it King’s Grove farm in honour of him with that area in Sydney still bearing that name today.

Strangely when the grants were made, they were not for a particular parcel of land and the question remains unanswered as to why, Mrs. Laycock decided on -- “100 acres, at Putty, near the Bulga Road”.   

In June 1820, Hannah had her solicitor write to Governor Macquarie, asking for additional land to be added to the allotment she was first promised but had not yet received.  A reply stated that “his Excellency regrets that he cannot comply with your request he being recently received instructions on-joined not to make grants to females.”  


A reply stated that “his Excellency regrets that he cannot comply with your request he being recently received instructions on-joined not to make grants to females.”This must have been disappointing for her, but she went ahead with her plans and in about 1824 took possession but not ownership of the 100 acres at Putty and with help from her son Samuel and his nephew Thomas William Eber Bunker Laycock, along with two convicts, improved the property, adding a cottage, stables, sheds, a horse mill and fences. 

Hannah Laycock-Circa 1800                                                                                                                                         

Chapter 2 – Marriage, family and securing the land.

It was July 1826 and Hannah Laycock wrote to Governor Ralph Darling, Governor of NSW from 1825 to 1831 requesting permission to rent a further 1000 acres at Putty. In October the same year she lodged an application to purchase the same land stating that her cattle had been ‘depasturing’ the area and that she was already in possession of 100 acres, 20 of which were cleared.  She also stated that she had 5000 pounds sterling to her credit. The application must have been unsuccessful as in July 1828 she applied again to rent it with a view to purchase. 

Hannah Laycock and her husband Thomas had six children. Sarah, William, Thomas Jnr., Samuel, Rebecca and Elizabeth.  Hannah died in 1831 and the 100 acres promised and taken up at Putty then allegedly ‘devised’ to Samuel.  But Samuel died the following year.  

Hannah’s son Thomas Jnr. joined the NSW Corps in 1795 and as a soldier, served in Sydney and on Norfolk Island.  In 1806 he was sent to Port Dalrymple in the north of Tasmania.  He and his party were the first to traverse the island, north to south. The aim of the expedition was to obtain relief for the famine stricken northern settlement.  However, on reaching Hobart Town, it was found that the south of Tasmania was equally short of food.  

He returned to Sydney and in 1809 married Isabella Bunker, the daughter of Captain Eber Bunker, a man considered to be the father of Australian Whaling.  With the NSW Corps, the couple returned to England the following year and Thomas was promoted to Captain in the 98th Regiment, serving with that rank in the American War.


                                 Thomas Layc ock                                            Isabella Laycock


While Thomas was stationed in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1815, their son, who they named Thomas William Eber Bunker Laycock, was born.  Thomas and Isabella with their daughter  Margaretta and baby Thomas returned to Sydney in 1817 but two months later, Isabella died in childbirth.  Thomas Jnr. was later re-married to Margaret Connell, daughter of John Connell, a merchant.  Thomas and Margaret became parents to two more children and the family of six lived on Thomas’ estate at Bringelly.  There he set up a store, opened a hotel and soon became a large supplier of meat to the commissariat.  He was also one of the leading citizens applying for trial by jury in the colony.  Sadly Thomas died on his estate in 1823 at the age of 37 years.

Thomas W.E.B. was only eight years old when his father died. By 1824 he had arrived at Putty Farm, living and working on the property with his Uncle Samuel. When Samuel died, this left Thomas W.E.B, at the age of seventeen years, responsible for running the farm.  In 1833, very soon after assuming the role of caretaker of the property, he made application for the land to be surveyed.

Thomas W.E.B. Laycock married his cousin Mary Matcham Pitt in 1835.  Mary was the daughter of his Aunt Elizabeth who had married Thomas Matcham Pitt.  While Thomas W.E.B. and Mary were residing in Richmond, their children Thomas, Elizabeth, Robert, Henry and Andrew were born.

Thomas W.E.B and Mary set up residence on the Putty farm in 1845 where four more children, Isabella, Emily Jane, Mary and George made their family complete.  After Hannah, these nine brothers and sisters were the third generation of Laycocks in Putty.



COURT of Claims Office, March 17 -Notice is hereby given, that the following Claims for Deeds of Grant of Land and Town Allotments will be ready for the examination of the Commissioners at the expiration of two months from this date, before which day any caveat or counter claim must be entered at this office. Due notice will be given of the days appointed for the hearings: -

 1236. Thomas William Eber Bunker Laycock, of Putty on the Bulga, by his solicitor, Francis Baddek, Esq , 100 acres, County of Hunter, at Putty, near the Bulga Road. This land was located on an order of Governor Macquarie, dated 30th October, 1813, in favour of Hannah Laycock, deceased, who, it is alleged, devised to Samuel Laycock, deceased, with remainder to applicant.


His claim was granted and the property transferred into his name on 30th July, 1845. Finally, after more than thirty years, the original 100 acre grant actually belonged to a member of the Laycock family.                    


Chapter 3 - Property transactions and deaths of the founders

Even though Thomas W.E.B had requested the land be surveyed in 1833, it was some years before this happened. On an old survey plan dated 6thJanuary 1860, showing the parishes of Gullongulong and Tollagong, is written “twenty one portions of land at Tupa or Putty Creek, County of Hunter applied for to purchase by Mr. Thomas Laycock and for the Crown”.

On 1st October, 1860, a sale was held at St. Albans for Country lots 2 to 22. Thomas W.E.B.’s sons, Thomas, Robert, Henry, Andrew and George bought between them, thirteen of these lots with the remaining eight not bid for. The Crown began advertising additional land for sale at Putty in 1861 and further purchases were made by the Laycock men in that year and also in 1876 and 1877.  Thomas W.E.B. did not buy any other land in Putty, possessing only his original 100 acre grant. This may have been because he was absent from Putty, on and off, for a number of years. It is rumored that he spent a considerable amount of time seeking his fortune on the Gulgong-Mudgee goldfields but no evidence of this or his success can be found.

His final return to Putty was in about 1879. On arriving back, he found that his wife Mary and his son Robert had both died while he was away, Mary from a heart attack at age sixty three and Robert as a result of falling from a horse near a Wollemi bridge at age twenty five.

On Monday 15th July (1878), the day that Mary Laycock died, a neighbour reported her death to Wollombi police late in the afternoon, stating that Mary had dropped dead on that day. The coroner, accompanied by Senior Constable Forrest, started out early the next morning for Putty. Owing to the very long distance, fifty miles, they did not arrive in time for the coroner to hold an enquiry until the next day, the 17th. After hearing evidence from Mary’s acquaintances, he returned a verdict of death from disease of the heart.

 The writer of the newspaper report also stated that he was informed as follows: -

 “This Putty is not only a considerable distance from Wollombi, but is a most wretched mountainous and rocky road to travel, and wearisome to both man and beast: and that the coroner found himself greatly fatigued with this long distance he was compelled to travel in the interest of the law and the public.”

 It is hard to imagine, all day to cover fifty miles!  The article does not state the coroner’s mode of transport. Whether on foot, on horseback or by horse and cart it was not an easy trip. Such were the lonely, difficult and isolated conditions under which the brave pioneers at Putty lived and the trips that visitors had to endure

 It is apparent from another newspaper article, that at some time and possibly while Thomas W.E.B was absent from Putty, the title to his 100 acres was transferred to his son Thomas. The details in the following notice might indicate this but definitely indicates that the property was subject to mortgage with the debt outstanding.


 Friday April 19th 1867


 John B. Laverack has received instructions from Mr. James Rochester to sell by public auction, on Saturday, April 20th, at 2 o’clock, at Mr. W. N. Blanchards Hotel, Windsor, All that parcel of land, containing 100 acres, more or less, situate at Putty, on the Bulga Road, now in the occupation of Mr. Thomas Laycock.  A large cottage, stables, sheds, horse mill, etc, erected on the land, a great portion of which is cleared and under cultivation, all securely fenced. There is abundance of water in the driest season, and, in fact, every convenience to make the property a desirable homestead.




                        Convict built culvert on the Old Bulga Road-Putty 


So it had come to this, after forty three years of Laycock occupation, the property which Hannah Laycock and her son Samuel fought for, the same to which her grandson Thomas William Eber Bunker and his Uncle Samuel made improvements, the property Thomas W.E.B. successfully negotiated to buy and had surveyed, the one where he and his wife Mary raised their family, is now going to be auctioned off!                                                                             


 Chapter 4 – Saving Putty Farm and a Memorial to a Friend 

From all of Thomas W.E.B and Mary’s sons, only Andrew and George married. Daughters Isabella Eliza and Mary Matcham married James Gillespie and James Timmins respectively.  They and their families moved on from Putty.  

Andrew married (Mary) Jane Thorley in 1884. Jane was the daughter of James Thorley from the Mount Thorley Homestead.   Andrew and Jane were not blessed with children.







                     Andrew Laycock                                                         Jane Thorley 

It appears that Andrew Laycock bought Thomas W.E.B’s original 100 acres. But he might have over-extended himself in doing so.  A notice in the NSW Government Gazette dated September-October 1896 lists eight properties as being owned by him at that date, including the 100 acre parcel.  The listed land was subject to mortgages from Andrew Laycock to E.P. and H.H. Capper. They were to be sold by public auction at Singleton Court House to secure the sum of one thousand, seven hundred pounds, ($3400).  It is possible that Laycock satisfied the debt before the auction.  Parish maps dated after this time indicate that he retained ownership of a number of parcels including the 100 acre property.  

E.P. and H.H. Capper were the largest merchants known to exist in NSW outside of Sydney Town.  Their stores were located in several streets of Singleton, one of their buildings being four stories high. In 1903, they opened a second business in Maitland and between the two towns, sold everything imaginable.  Building materials, fencing, agricultural supplies, furniture, guns and ammunition, linen, china and so the list goes on. Their business would have been fierce competition for Bunnings or even Costco if they had existed at that time.  Given the action for debt recovery from Andrew Laycock, the company may also have been in the business of property mortgages.  When looking at historical parish maps of the Putty district, the names E.P. & H.H. Capper is evident on several parcels of land.   Question is, did they buy the land or gain it through defaulted mortgage conditions. 

Andrew was very involved in the political scene and the Patrick Plains Shire Council. He had befriended a Mr. R.Stevenson, a Member of Parliament for Northumberland.  While on tour through his electorate, Stevenson called in to visit Laycock at his home in Putty.   Leaving Wollombi in the morning of Sunday 14th May 1899, and riding on horseback, he arrived outside Andrew Laycock’s home where he dismounted from his horse, removed the saddle and almost immediately expired.  

Mr. Stevenson was a pronounced protectionist, and a particularly good "roads and bridges" member. He was a strong opponent of the Secret Conference Bill, and was proud to place himself among the ranks of the anti-billites. It was for the purpose of warning his constituents against the iniquitous provisions of the bill that he recently went up to his electorate to, in his own words, "tear it to pieces." He was opposed to the bill before, and he considered it now worse than ever. 

(extract The Australian, Windsor, Richmond, and Hawkesbury Advertiser. Thursday, May 18, 1899.  Death of Mr. R. Stevenson, M.P.)

Andrew Laycock was so taken by this man’s beliefs that he had a memorial stone laid in his honour outside his home.  This stone still remains in the ground today.



THIS PLAQUE, PLACED IN MEMORY OF MR. STEVENSON MP, IS SITUATED NEAR TURNBULL CREEK AT PUTTY.  A HOUSE WAS LOCATED CLOSE BY AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH IN 1899.                                                                                 


Chapter 5 – Growing families, making a living and new arrivals.

May Elizabeth Farlow was born in 1865.  She was the Granddaughter of Thomas W.E.B and Mary Laycock and daughter of Elizabeth, married to James Farlow, a descendant of Robert Farlow from Boggy Swamp. 

In 1876, Thomas and Mary’s daughter Emily Jane, married Oliver Cobcroft from Peel River. They became the parents of eight children, one not surviving infancy.  Their children were Mary, (William) Robert , Clara, Austin, Madeline, Wilfred and Colin. Madeline died from mushroom poisoning (reportedly) as a small child.

George Laycock married Oliver’s sister Ada Emily in 1882.  The Laycock family name continued in Putty with the birth of their ten children. They named their children Lillith and Lily, (twins), Kenneth, Garnet, Stanley, Cardinal, Mabel, Reginald and Alma. Another baby, a twin to Kenneth did not survive and sadly Mabel died at the age of four as a result of burns. 

As well as having eight children of their own to care for, May Elizabeth Farlow came to Putty to live with and be raised by her Uncle George and Aunt Ada. 

The pioneers of Putty raised pigs, cattle, horses and turkeys and were able to support themselves and their families by marketing this stock. Some people found work as drovers or general hands on neighbouring properties while others sought work outside the valley.  The dairy industry flourished and during a good season, cows were milked twice a day.  Milk needed for household use was taken to the kitchen each morning and the bulk of the milk was put through a milk separator, situated in a cool part of the dairy.  The extracted cream was carted to butter factories in Singleton and the left-over skimmed milk was fed to pigs, poddy calves, household pets and anything else that might like it.   Families grew fruit trees and crops such as wheat, corn, maize and sorghum for animal feed and domestic use. The ladies of the household made butter, porridges, bread and cakes and also preserved fruit for later use. When a beast was killed, they would cure pork for bacon and ham or pickle some pork or beef to make corned meat. 

Henry, George, Thomas and Robert Laycock were all regarded as great cattle men and Robert was renowned for the quality of his stallion horses. Thomas was recognised for the quality of the pigs he raised.  Getting them to market took him a while as he would ‘drive’ them there but not by truck; the pigs would trot all the way.  He was also a horse fancier and owned some well-bred mares. Many Sydney men would seek him out to supply them with good stock.    

Andrew Laycock pursued a different interest as a very notable breeder of stud Hereford cattle emphasised by the name of his property, “Hereford Hill”.  He regularly purchased stud bulls from England, the last acquisition being in 1907, not long before his death following a stroke.  Young bulls from his herd were in high demand and he often sold them to a breeder of Hereford cattle in Queensland. One sale of fifty young bulls brought him an average price of nine guineas. (This would equate to about two weeks wages in today’s money.)

Andrew was well recognised at the Royal Easter Show where his bulls won several major prizes. 

One of his biggest dislikes was dairy cattle.  He would not allow them to be agisted on his property, considering them vermin. (extract Singleton Argus 28 April 1906).  Possibly his biggest worry was that a bull from the local dairy herds might stray onto his land and his purebred Hereford cows might just not produce a Hereford calf! 

During his trips to Richmond, George Laycock befriended a Mr. Ridge who visited Putty and subsequently stayed. The names R.E. Ridge, Robert Ridge Snr and Robert Ridge appear on many portions of land shown on historic maps over several of the Putty parishes. Who is to know whom, but as well as having cattle, horses and pigs, either Robert Ridge Snr or Jnr  grew apples in Putty, said to be “the biggest ever seen” and pears, of the William variety. 

The names of Mr. Ridge Snr. and Jnr. and the five Laycock men were included in a Parliamentary Return of Landholders dated 1885. The return listed each person’s acreage which when combined, was 1700 acres.  Their total number of stock was recorded as 136 horses, 349 head of cattle and 36 pigs.

These same names were included in the next Putty census taken in 1891. Added were Oliver Cobcroft, James Merrick, William H. Merrick, Robert Hayman and John Mason, a drover.  Counting men, women and children, the population had grown to fifty five, thirty three males and twenty two females. There were ten dwellings in Putty, three of them uninhabited and another at Boggy Swamp where Robert Ridge lived with his wife Esther and their three children.  It seems that Putty was getting too crowded for John Mason the drover so he moved on. 

Outside interest in Putty was being generated and people from further afield began to buy Putty land that was passed in prior to 1887.  William Albert Jackson and William Henry Merrick bought two parcels while Harper Augustus Turnbull from the Colo purchased two. The ownership of all was confirmed on 3rd August, 1888.  Putty was on the move.                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 Chapter 6 – The Women Who Made the Difference 

During the early years of Australian settlement, the development of Australian cities and small towns has been attributed to men, with women given little recognition. Women were not named in a census and as late as the early twentieth century a married woman’s title did not contain her Christian name, for example, she would be known as “Mrs. Robert Jones.” 

In the Howes Valley and Putty villages there was a small group of women who without them and their descendants, both places would have been very different. 

In Putty there were women such as Hannah Laycock, her grandson’s wife Mary Matcham Pitt, and her two great-granddaughters May Elizabeth Farlow and Emily Jane Laycock. 

Maria Jane Merrick, born 1815, may not have been the first woman to settle in Howes Valley, but she did so with her husband Joseph and their thirteen children. Three of her children were Caroline Susannah, Maria Jane and James Robert. 

Caroline Susannah, born in 1840, married Henry Jackson and like her mother, also had thirteen children. It was Caroline’s sons William Henry Merrick and William Albert Jackson who bought Putty land in 1888. 

 It was not unusual for a mother’s first or even second child to be given their mother’s surname. Visits from the local vicar were few and far between and it seems that even though mum and dad set up home together, only the children born after the nuptials took their father’s surname. 

Maria Jane, Caroline’s sister, was born in 1855. She married her first husband Thomas Café in 1872 and had five children. It was two of them, John Rowland Café and his sister Eliza Cafe, who settled in Putty. 

When John moved to Putty and married Mary Matcham Cobcroft, daughter of Emily Cobcroft, (nee Laycock.) it was the beginning of the Putty/Café family. 

Maria Jane Café’s husband Thomas had died as a result of a gunshot wound in 1885. Three years after his death, Maria married Edward William Medhurst. Her daughter, Eliza Cafe, at age fifteen years, married Edward’s brother Jonathan the same day. Eliza, like many other women of the time, also became the mother of thirteen children. 

Was there something about having a baker’s dozen? It appears that most of the women had thirteen babies, but sadly not all of them survived infancy. 

Maria, now Mrs. Edward Medhurst, had five more children. One of the daughters, Eva Mary Medhurst married Wilfred Cobcroft, brother of Mary Café, John’s wife. 

Sarah Ann Diplock was another woman important to the development of Putty. Born at Wollombi in 1836, she married John Medhurst from the Lower Hawkesbury and they too settled at Howes Valley. Sarah was the mother of Edward, Jonathan, Laban, John, Walter, George and Joshua, four other sons and two daughters. 

Drought conditions forced John, Laban, Walter and George north towards Denman. Edward and Maria along with Sarah and her two daughters remained in Howes Valley but Jonathan, his wife Eliza and brother Joshua moved to Putty. 

But I mustn’t forget James Robert Merrick, brother of Caroline and Eliza for he married Martha Louise Gibbs and they settled in Putty. James and Martha were the parents of George Henry Gibbs, and twelve other children named Merrick including William John, James Richard, Albert Edward, Roland Dural, Thomas Leo, and Ada Clara Martha all of whom raised Merrick children in Putty. 

It was James Richard Merrick, Martha’s son, who Haler Eliza Medhurst, one of Eliza’s daughters, set up house with and became the mother of his ten children. James and Haler never married so Haler’s children continued on with the Medhurst name. 

Caroline’s son William Henry Merrick and his wife Catherine also made a fine contribution to the Merrick population. 

The eleven pioneer women I have introduced to you were the matriarchs of the Laycock, Harris, Merrick, Cobcroft, Café, Medhurst, Jackson and Gibbs families, the families who made Putty what is was in its early years of settlement. 

I have named only a few of the Medhurst and Merrick ancestors and their descendants. Whose was the biggest family? Impossible to say. It is incredible to think that from only eleven amazing and hard working women that Putty was “up and running” so quickly. Right through the 1800’s and early 1900’s both families just got bigger and bigger. Census figures did not reflect a true account of all the children living in Putty so this made it impossible for me to figure out who might have won the prize, if there was one, for the having the greatest number of children, was it the Merricks or the Medhursts or were they all one big family after all. A family member once said to me, “don’t bother trying to trace the family trees, even those in the families cant sort it out.”                                                                                                                                                        

 Chapter 7 –May Elizabeth Farlow and William Merrick

May Elizabeth Farlow married William J Harris, son of Richard Harris from Wollombi in 1887.  They made their home in Putty on a property they named “Greenhills”, not far along Putty Valley Road from the Lilavale/Jacobs Hollow Track.  It didn’t take long for their home to be filled with their nine little girls.    

Unfortunately William died in 1903 leaving May to manage the family and the property. May or Ma Harris as she became known, employed several farm workers and to ensure regular income, share-farmed her land.  Through necessity, she became a force to be reckoned with, ruling with an iron hand.  An example of this occurred in later years, 1938.  She made a claim against another Putty resident for alleged negligent share farming claiming she had suffered a loss of £113 10/.  ($227.00). The items she listed were; failure to drain lagoon; failure to farm portion of the property; failure to replace shed borrowed from her; use of her three horses for six months; failure to carry out certain scrub-cutting; being absent from the property for some time.  Also the expected quantity of corn was not produced with a claim submitted for the value of the shortfall. (extract Singleton Argus 7 Dec 1938). 

Born in 1865 and living until ninety three years of age, May Harris would have seen many changes occur in Putty and many people arriving and leaving.  She was involved in several disputes over property boundaries and also asked to give evidence during a court case instigated by a woman against her brother who abused her for trespassing on what he claimed to be his private road.  

Several of May’s daughters, including Rachael Susannah, remained in Putty after marrying so she was fortunate in having family support though her senior years. 

By the census of 1896, the Putty population had grown to include thirty seven males and twenty six females, some of whom were children.  In all, sixty three residents were living in thirteen wooden dwellings dotted throughout the valley.  New to Putty at that time were Henry Jackson, Thomas Cross, Robert Gosper, Thomas Simmons, Margaret Phipps (nee Cornwell) and six other men, camped out either getting timber or work.  

William Henry Merrick, son of Caroline and Henry Jackson, left Howes Valley as a young man to go “a drovin”, moving cattle through all the Eastern states of Australia.  On one occasion, he was with a team of drovers who took three hundred and sixty head of cattle from Queensland to Adelaide, slowly, so as to keep the weight on them. This trip took five months and during this period, they were seldom out of the saddle. “Swampy Bill” as he became known, returned to Howes Valley and soon afterwards he and Miss Catherine Manser from Wollombi married in 1886.  They started a dairy farm together at Howes Valley but decided to move to Putty in 1888.

Soon after arriving, they made their home in slab huts, three of which are still standing alongside Putty Valley Road.  It wasn’t very long before their twelve children, Lillieth Jane, Wilhelmina, Catherine, Rudolph, Amos, Aubrey, Dulcie, Phyllis, Muriel, Pearl, Claude and Hilte filled those little slab huts to overflowing.

William Henry Merrick and his uncle James Robert Merrick were the first of the Merrick men to settle in Putty.  At the time of the 1891 census theirs were the only Merrick names recorded.  This census also noted that living with William were four females, counted but not named and living with James, six males who were possibly boys under the age of twenty one years. 

William Merrick’s brother William Jackson was a builder/carpenter and worked on bridges and roads in the Howes Valley and Bulga districts.  When William Merrick and wife Catherine needed a bigger home to raise their large family, William the builder, constructed a house for them on the rise above the huts.  They named their new home “Hillview”.  It is still there, standing proud and looking down at the three remaining little slab huts in the valley.   


  Chapter 8 –Isolation, Hardships a Post Office and School                               

Robert Ridge Jnr. was born at Colo in 1841. He and his wife Mary Ann (nee Skuthorpe) lived in “Vine Cottage” at Boggy Swamp. They were the parents of seven children including a son they named Robert born in 1866 at Putty.  Young Robert married Georgina Cullen from Howes Valley.  Georgina took on the role of post-mistress at Putty, ran an accommodation house and sold household necessities. 

After Robert Jnr’s. wife Mary died, he married Esther Amelia Beetson. While still living at Boggy Swamp, they brought ten more children into the world but three of them died as infants.  The remains of a sad little family cemetery can be still found, tumbled down the side of Boggy Swamp Creek.  Hand chiselled into one of the headstones is the following inscriptions 






Hardships of the Bush – written by a visitor to Putty in 1898.. 

From Howes Valley to Putty it is 16 miles, by a road which is a disgrace to civilisation - one finds himself in the valley of Putty. The district is one of agriculture and can boast several good farms, but the distance from markets, coupled with bad roads compels the inhabitants to limit their area of cultivation as the most profitable way is to rear pigs etc. with the farm produce as it is more economic to feed the produce as the bacon and pigs are more easily carried than grain. In these days one is surprised to find the old fashioned methods still in use in farming.  On the barn floor, the flail is to be observed in use there, thrashing wheat; also in one or two places the old millstones for grinding wheat are now lying idly by. They were in use up to a few years ago, when people were compelled to travel the old Bulga road.   The public buildings in Putty are a post office and a provisional school with daily attendance of about sixteen. (Extract Singleton Argus, 4 August, 1898.) 

Wheat, corn, oats, maize and sorghum was grown on most farms in Putty. As well as feed for cattle, horses, pigs and poultry the best was kept for household use.  Wheat ground into flour was used to make bread and butter was churned from cream after its separation from the cow’s milk. These tasks were often done by the children. 

The first Putty post office, with Georgina Ridge as post-mistress, opened on 1st January, 1877 and closed on 30th September, 1915.  It reopened on the 1st January 1927 and continued operating until 30th November, 1979.  From 1927, the Post Offices were run by Vic Turnbull at “Happy Valley” and later by Sue Ellis at “Fairview”.

 The first school building in Putty was a small structure on George Laycock’s property. Lessons began in April 1884 with Mr. David Williams the appointed teacher. He alternated his teaching days between Putty and Springfield, near Howes Valley.  A new Putty school house was built in 1898 and this building was moved to an approved Department of Public Instruction site near Turnbull Creek in 1903.  By the late 1950’s the school had been moved to nearby the Putty Hall with lessons also being held in the hall. It was operational on and off for more than eighty years beginning with the status of house to house school, then half time, provisional, public and lastly a subsidised school.  Putty school closed permanently in 1966. 

It wasn’t an easy task to get stock to the sales yards in Singleton. Horses pulling a wooden cart load of wriggly pigs would not have been a good combination so William and Catherine Merrick walked their pigs to the markets.  The trip would take about a week and if they got five pounds for a big fat porker they considered themselves very lucky.  The farmers who raised turkeys to sell would also walk them to the markets.  Before their trip started, the turkey’s feet would be coated in warm tar and then sand to ensure they still had feet when they arrived.  I wonder how many flew away on the way. Imagine this.  You are on your way home from the local, you see a big black thing fall from the sky, go to investigate and find a turkey wearing sand shoes. Perhaps one too many? 

On market days, the women would travel by horse and cart into town.  Wearing their best outfits, they would meet up with old friends, catch up on news and return home with supplies and little knick-knacks which they needed or just fancied. Because of the distance involved, this would only happen three or four times a year. Retail therapy, only a few times a year?  As my granddaughters would say, NO WAY!                                                                                                      


Chapter 9 – The Taggart and McTaggart families

It was the year 1901 before the first McTaggarts, Richard and his family members, were included in a Putty census.  But forty years before then, another little person from the Taggart family arrived in Putty.  Born in 1859, Henry Frederick Taggart was the son of a young Aboriginal girl known as Emily and John Taggart, son of Charles Taggart and Elizabeth McNamara.  Henry lived with the Cobcroft family.

The Taggart and McTaggart names are well known in the district with family members currently living in Broke, Bulga and Singleton.  Besides the different spelling, they have a common ancestor, convict Charles Taggart, or with aliases, Mctaggart, Taggard or Mcintaggart who at 27 years of age was transported to the colony aboard the ship “Earl St Vincent” arriving at Sydney Cove in December 1818.  On landing, Charles was sent to the Hawkesbury, where, after serving out his seven year sentence for robbery, he married Elizabeth Judith McNamara.  Charles and Elizabeth became parents to seven children, one they named John, born in 1840. 

Charles did well with his crops and cattle and around the mid 1850’s was able to purchase land in the Howes Valley area.  South of Howes Valley was a property at Burrowell owned by a Mr. Chapman. Very different to the current Chapman property, it was expansive, joining up to Thomas Hungerford’s even larger property at Baerami. 

Family stories, handed down through generations, tell of a ‘shindig’ held at Mr. Chapman’s in about 1858 which young John Taggart decided to attend. Saddling up his horse, he rode some distance from Howes Valley to the “Sandy Hollow” area at Burrowell where the Chapmans lived.  There he met Emily, a young Aboriginal girl, said to belong to the locally based indigenous group, the Wonnarua People.  Emily was eighteen years of age and had been working for Mrs. Chapman as a domestic servant for several years.  On the evening of the party she was working in the kitchen helping to get things organised to make the event a success.  It came to be that on this night, John met up with Emily and took her away from her duties.   

 Not long after the ‘shindig’, it was obvious that Emily was pregnant.  Emily and John’s son, Henry Frederick Taggart, was born in 1859.  John’s family was not at all happy with John that he had fathered a child with an Aboriginal woman and so distanced themselves from Emily and Henry.  This left the new mother with a difficult decision to make. She was given the choice of either finding someone she trusted to care for her baby or leave the employment of Mrs.Chapman to care for her baby herself.

 So sadly and reluctantly Emily packed up Henry and delivered him to Mr. Cobcroft at Putty who had agreed to look after him.  William and Elizabeth Cobcroft already had eight children and Henry, or Harry as he became known, was raised along with them as one of the family.  He had the opportunity to enjoy a full young life at Putty and while there was able to mix with and learn the ways of the Darkinjung Aboriginal people.   He kept in contact with his mother and would regularly ride his horse along the tracks from Putty to her home at “Sandy Hollow”, Burrowell.  When travelling further north to Howes Valley, Broke and Bulga, where many important gathering sites and ceremonial tracks existed, he also learnt the ways of the Wannarua People.

John Taggart married Elizabeth Sylvester in February 1860 and chose to use the family name of McTaggart as did his brothers and sisters so distancing themselves even further from Emily and the little Aboriginal son.

 In 1891, Harry married Mary Lawrence from Singleton and they became parents to eight children, Margueretta, Beatrice, Eliza, George, Mary, Henry, Amos and Marjorie. 

Harry’s son George would often travel with his father to visit his grandmother Emily.  There was many a stop for a ‘chin wag’ with someone his father knew from his ‘mob’ so the trip would always take quite a while and George had to be very patient.

One of Harry and Mary’s grandsons, Eric, born in 1918, had an entertaining sense of humour.  Among his friends was Tommy Sales from the Putty branch of the Darkinjung clan.  Tommy, acting as Eric’s tout, would narrate the most exaggerated stories to those willing to listen during which Eric would emerge from the Wollombi bush as a wild uncivilised Aborigine complete with primitive wooden weapons disappearing again as quickly as he arrived.  Far from the truth, Eric, highly regarded as a gentleman, lived quietly in Broke and hunted game with a rifle. Eric was often sought after to share the knowledge he had of his ancestors and their ways which he had learnt from his father and grandfather.

 Harry’s great grandson, Singleton Elder Uncle Warren Taggart, continues to this day to pass on his knowledge of the traditional ways of his ancestors.  By often visiting the local schools and sharing his knowledge with cultural groups, Warren is dedicated to maintaining the awareness of the history of the Aboriginal People of the Hunter Valley. 

Sadly Emily’s family has no photo of her, no record of how she spent her later years and no record of where she is buried. 

.                                                                                                          To be continued

Margaret Ferguson © 2016









Chapter 10 - More New Arrivals and disaster

 By 1901, Putty had a recorded population of seventy one people comprising thirty eight males and thirty three females.  There were nineteen occupied dwellings. Newly recorded were William J Harris, Henry War Turnbull, Richard McTaggart, George Henry Gibbs, Albert Merrick, William John Merrick and Arthur Barwick whose arrival was especially welcome as he had been appointed the teacher at the Putty Provisional School in 1895. 

It seems that Richard McTaggart and his wife Emily (nee Harris) did not stay in Putty very long.  Was it because Mrs. McTaggart found the roads a bit too rough?  A newspaper report has it that while she and Mr. Oliver Cobcroft were out driving in a sulky it capsized by some means as they crossed a creek near the residence of Mr. Robert Ridge.  Both were thrown out of the sulky and with the exception of a shaking and a fright escaped unhurt.  Unhurt? They must have had at least a few scratches!  Anyway, the horse freed himself from the sulky and galloped home with the harness flaying, leaving a badly broken sulky behind and its previous occupants to fend for themselves.  (Singleton Argus 20th August, 1898)                                                    

Now living in Putty, George (Henry) Gibbs, married Catherine Harris, sister of William, Ma Harris’ husband.  With this marriage came yet another melding of families.  George and Catherine had five children, one was (William) George. 

George was just eighteen years old when he enlisted to serve in the Great War. George returned home safely in 1919 and in 1934 married (Kate) Merle Orrell. Merle already had three children from a previous marriage so George built a family home at Long Swamp Putty which is still standing at the corner of Putty Valley Road and Bakers Road. It wasn’t long before their daughter Betty was born. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the centenary of Anzac held in the Putty Hall in 2015.  A very proud and happy lady, she told me that she came close to dying as a baby saved only by her father’s ingenuity.  He would soak a dry corn cob in milk and by sucking the milk from it, Betty survived.  She also told me that as a child, she was never far from her father’s side, going everywhere she could with him. As she sat on a little wooden box nearby to where he was working, either alone or with other men, she learnt words a little girl should not. Consequently she got into a lot of trouble at school for saying the wrong thing. 

 George, Merle and Betty Gibbs

In about 1938

Disastrous fires in January 1905 wreaked havoc throughout the districts of Howes Valley, Springfield, Burrowell Creek and Putty, taking with them buildings, fences and all forms of livestock, leaving many residents in all the areas badly affected. 

The Chapmans at Burrowell lost newly bagged wheat and an orchard in full fruit and Mr. Harris and Mr. McTaggart lost sheep and cattle.  In Putty the fire came from the direction of Mt. Coricudgy. It broke over into Jacobs Hollow and Long Hollow then leapt Putty Creek, enveloping Mr. Robert Ridge’s residence in flames. The fire raged fiercely on both sides of the creek, attacked Mrs. Harris’ property on one side and at the same time attacked and burnt out two of Mr. Andrew Laycocks four roomed cottages on the other. It was estimated that from Howes Valley to Putty, over 40 miles of fencing was destroyed. During the disaster, Mr. Barwick and Miss P Ridge came close to being trapped by fire.  If not for the bravery of Messrs. Chapman, Laycock, Medhurst, Harris, McTaggart and Barwick, assisted by the women who all fought with the energy of despair, more property and stock would have been lost. (extract from an article in the Singleton Argus, 14th January,1905) 

The bush fire was a great blow to Robert Ridge Snr. with the thought of rebuilding his “Putty House” and re-stocking his property, too much for him to bear. So he sold his old home and moved back to his farm at Colo where he died in September, 1906, suddenly, from a heart seizure.  Standing by his gravesite, a friend recalled stories told by Mr. Ridge which he related - “those wild days when Putty - now a land flowing with milk and honey, then a howling wilderness - was inhabited mostly by aborigines and visited only at rare intervals by passing drovers”.                                                                                             

Chapter 11 - The Laycock Men ‘removed from’ ** Putty

Andrew Laycock started his Hereford cattle herd in Putty in 1883 and by early 1908 had a fine herd, renowned for the young bulls which he regularly sold.  Although he managed his cattle well, it seems he did not do as well with his finances.  A Government Gazette notice dated 1896, indicated that the Sheriff was selling eight of his properties to satisfy a mortgagor debt of one thousand, seven hundred pounds ($3400) unless the debt was satisfied previously. The Bank of New South Wales also held bonds and securities given by him for the sum of three thousand, seven hundred and sixty three pounds, eight shillings and nine pence sterling. ($7528)

Andrew suffered his first stroke in April 1908 and a second one from which he died at his home in Putty on the 12th August the same year.  Was it the stress of these debts and the loss his two four roomed cottages in the 1905 fire which caused the illness?    After his death, his herd was sold very cheaply and did not find their way into any registered herd.   In January 1910, the Bank of New South Wales served a Notice of Demand on Andrew Laycock, or if dead, to his representatives, for the amount due for the bonds and securities given him by the Bank.  (extract Government Gazette 1910) 

When Andrew died, funeral arrangements needed to be made so Mr. Jackson and Mr. Gibbs travelled to Singleton to do so and to purchase of a coffin with which they returned to Putty in readiness for the funeral.  Using a horse and dray for transport, the trip took most of the day and stretched well into the night. 

After Andrew had been laid to rest in the family cemetery at Putty, his widow, (Mary) Jane Thorley presented W.A. Jackson and G. Gibbs with a silver teapot each, in memory of the kindness shown by them to her late husband. They were each inscribed “Presented by Mrs. A. Laycock, in memory of her late husband, who died August 12th, 1908”.

The original 100 acres, Putty Farm, passed to the nephew of Andrew’s wife, Percy Crossing.  In later years, it was owned by (Henry) Victor Turnbull whose wife Eudora was Percy’s sister. The property changed hands several times in the ensuing years and is currently owned by Steve and Therese Donnelly.

George Laycock and his brother Thomas also got into a spot of bother financially.  From 1887 to 1890, they had each obtained four parcels of land in the Parish of Gullongulong at Putty under the terms of conditional purchase. In a Government Gazette notice dated Friday April 15th 1898, it stated that the Sheriff would cause to be sold by auction, these eight parcels, subject to all conditions remaining unfulfilled at the time of the writ.  The Bank of New South Wales had called in its debts. 

By 1908, all of George Laycock’s brothers had died and only his sister Emily and his niece May remained in Putty.  With either employment or marriage taking his older children away from Putty and with his properties disposed of, George, with his wife Ada and their younger children, ‘removed from’ Putty to settle in Singleton.                 

** ‘removed from’ was an expression used in the 19th century, since substituted by one word, ‘left’

Their home “Chateau” in Kelso Street was referred to as the Concertina House possibly getting its name from its eight sided design.  Ada died in 1916 and not long afterwards, George left Singleton to live with his daughter Alma, Mrs. R Aspey, in Arncliffe, Sydney.   With no owner, the abandoned “Chateau” fell into disrepair. In 1934, following complaints from neighbours about “undesirables” moving in and causing problems, the house was demolished by Singleton Council.    

George passed away in 1948 at Arncliffe, aged eighty nine years.  His remains were transported to Whittingham Cemetery to be buried nearby those of his wife Ada.





















Top Left: Richard Walker (‘affianced’ to Lily) - Top row: Cardinal, Kenneth, Lillith and Garnet.

Middle row: Lily, George & Ada (parents)andStanley - Bottom row: Alma and Reginald                                                                              

Chapter 12 - The Jackson’s, Howes Valley and Putty

Thomas and Sarah Eather (nee McAlpin) were the first white settlers at Bulga arriving from Richmond in 1826.  Thomas walked the distance leading bullocks with Sarah riding on one of them holding tightly to their baby son Thomas.  That probably wasn’t so safe but she had no choice as she could not find a baby capsule for little Thomas which fitted onto a bullock.    

Word got back to Richmond about the fertile land at Bulga and as the route between both passed through Putty and Howes Valley the pristine lands there did not go unnoticed.

Hannah and Samuel Laycock headed straight for Putty in 1824 onto the land promised to her in 1813 but members of the Merrick, Jackson and Medhurst families decided to give Howes Valley a try first. 

I have already introduced you to Caroline, the daughter of Joseph and Maria Merrick who settled in Howes Valley and her first son, William Henry Merrick.  It was he and his wife Catherine, who established themselves at Putty in 1888 and lived in those little slab huts still standing, lovingly restored, on Putty Valley Road. In 1860, Caroline married Henry Jackson from “Glendon”, on the Hunter River. They remained in Howes Valley and established a dairy farm where along with this pursuit they raised thirteen children. Several of their sons, including William Henry had quite an impact on Putty and Howes Valley.

While Henry Snr. was running the farm, Caroline was kept busy not only working by his side but also performing her role as the local midwife, soon earning the nick-name of Granny Jackson. She would travel on horseback day or night, along the tracks she got to know, to reach the imminent birth and was responsible for bringing a very large number of babies into the world at Putty, Howes Valley, Bulga, Martindale and Wollemi. Henry and Caroline continued to run their dairy farm until old age overtook them.  They both died in the winter of 1933, ten days apart. Henry was ninety seven and Caroline was ninety two.  

Another son of Caroline and Henry was Henry Jnr. born in 1863.  Henry Jnr. bought Putty land, a two hundred acre parcel, which after Putty Hall was built, was located across Putty Creek behind the hall.   Henry Jnr. established a horse racing track on this land which continued to be used for the sport and athletic events up until about 1950.  Henry Jnr. married Agnes Ivory and they made their home at Howes Valley with their three children, Horace, Arnold and Ella.  Horace and Arnold had the same sense of caring for others as did their grandmother.  In 1918, during the Great War, they served as stretcher bearers at Peronne, France where they worked continuously for forty eight hours until utterly exhausted, saving the lives of the many wounded.  Ella married George Cyril Medhurst, a son of Edward and Maria’s Medhurst.

The third son, William Albert Jackson was born in 1865. He was a carpenter, a builder of houses, bridges and any other thing which needed building.  He was one of the first contractors on the old "Darkie Creek" Road, now the Putty Road.

William Albert arrived in Putty in about 1887 securing land in 1888, the same year as his brothers Henry Jackson and William Henry Merrick.  He was responsible for the building of George Gibbs’ house at Long Swamp and his brother William’s house at “Hillview”.  He rebuilt Henry Laycock’s old house, “Fairview” and if its similar design has anything to do with it, possibly built Wilfred and Eva Cobcroft’s home on Box Gap Road as well.

William Jackson married Amelia Wells at Darkey Creek in 189. They settled in Putty and in the ensuing years became the parents of seven daughters.  William was particularly community minded and would devote himself to anything which brought advancement not only to Putty but also to Howes Valley and Bulga.  He was the Secretary of the Howes Valley and Putty Cream Co-operative Society Limited for many years and when the society was forced into voluntary liquidation in 1913, he accepted the appointment of liquidator.  By 1915, the telephone had come to Putty.  William, along with several others, had major input into bringing this service to fruition.  The amazing details of this achievement will be told later.

 William, Amelia and their family spent twenty seven years in Putty.  In July 1914, a number of Mr. Jackson’s friends from Bulga, Howes Valley and Putty assembled at his residence at Putty, to bid him farewell on the eve of his departure for Denman where he hoped to better himself.  Speeches made were testimony to the high esteem in which Mr. Jackson was held by his friends and acquaintances.  After supper was partaken of at 12 o’clock, a presentation was made by Mr. Frazer of Putty of a handsome tea service inscribed with “Presented to William Jackson by his many Putty friends”.  (extract Singleton Argus 16th July, 1914) As was always occurred, dancing and singing were indulged in until the early hours of the morning.                                                                                              

Chapter 13 – Putty, a Popular Destination

John and Sarah Ann Medhurst (nee Diplock) were married in 1854 and settled in Howes Valley raising ten sons and two daughters. Their sons would often go hunting and on occasions with friends from Putty. Money could be made selling tanned animal skins at the markets or by claiming rewards offered by the Government for bringing in dingo scalps and crow heads. Each crow head brought a bonus of six pence.  This bonus was offered when the Singleton Pastures Protection Board declared crows a pest after many farmers reported severe losses of sheep and lambs which had to be destroyed after crows had picked their eyes and brains out. (By 1936, ten shillings was being paid for a dingo scalp.) 

A disastrous drought in about 1882 forced sons John, Walter, Laban and George to seek emergency grazing land for their stock. Searching to the north of Howes Valley, and travelling through extremely difficult country, they settled on land which was ‘beyond their expectations’ at Greig’s Creek, near Denman. This area is now known as Martindale. Settlers already in the area tried to dissuade the Medhurst men from moving in but they were not to be put off. 

Having chosen their land, the men needed to go to Lands Department at Parramatta to register the selections.  They found the New Windsor Road south, built by convicts, to be a tiresome journey even for such hardy men as themselves. However, the trip proved worthwhile as on arrival, they found that Governor Bourke had passed an act in 1825 that allowed a person of good character to squat on a parcel of land not already granted to someone else for the payment of ten pounds ($20) per annum.  Their land at Greig’s Creek was secure.

After John Snr. died in 1905, Sarah with her younger children, moved from Howes Valley to Greig’s Creek to be with her sons who had settled there.  Another son Edward, who was newly married to Maria (widow of Thomas Café), remained in Howes Valley with his family on their “Bungarraby” property.  

 It was time for the remaining Medhurst sons to set up home.  It was only a two day ride by horseback from Martindale to Howes Valley or to Putty, so Jonathan with his wife Eliza (Café) and Joshua with his wife Ada Clara Martha (Merrick), (step-sister of George Henry Gibbs), took up their selections at Putty. 

Putty had become a very popular place.  Land for selection, conditional lease, conditional purchase, or annual lease was being highly sought after. During 1905 and 1906, over 18,000 acres had been officially allocated to more than twenty settlers bearing the names Chapman, Cobcroft, Gibbs, Gosper, Hall, Knodler, McTaggart, Medhurst, Merrick, Ridge, Smith and Sylvester, their names, settlement dates and land size recorded on at least seven of the local parish maps. 

John Café, son of Maria, ventured south to Putty in 1907 and married Oliver and Emily Cobcroft’s daughter Mary.  Their son Geoffrey Ernest was born in 1908.

John was the driver of the Howes Valley-Putty cream van which he would take regularly from Putty to Singleton and return. There was a cream depot at the Cobcroft’s Condon Clear property; the furthest most pick up point on the cream route. On reaching Mt. Thorley during one of his deliveries, the horses pulling the van were startled by men working on the road and took off at a run. They broke away from their harnesses and the van toppled over an embankment.  It was only slightly damaged but the contents of twenty five cream cans were lost.  John was thrown a considerable distance and amazingly only got a few bruises. Fortunately the horses were caught, reharnessed and the journey continued.  (extract Singleton Argus-Tuesday 28 November 1911)

In 1919, Oliver and Mary Cobcroft’s son Wilfred married Eva Medhurst., (step-sister of John Café) and built a home for her on Box Gap Road Putty. Although showing its age now, the building still exists.  Wilfred and Eva had no children of their own but raised Geoffrey Café from about the age of fourteen years after both his parents had died in their early forties, John in 1918 and Mary in 1922.  Geoffrey married Pearl Bates and with children Ronald, Enid and Maureen also lived on Box Gap Road.  

Settlement in Putty was now wide-spread, a vast difference from its beginning described by Robert Ridge, as “a howling wilderness, inhabited mostly by aborigines”.  By 1920 is had become a thriving village with about one hundred and fifty residents spread from one end of the valley to the other.                                                          


Chapter 14 – The Turnbull Family 

It appears that Harper Augustus Turnbull did not live on the Putty properties he bought in 1888, preferring the Hawkesbury district as his home.  In about 1890, his father, Henry War Turnbull with his wife Margaret and their children, left the old family home at Colo and moved to Putty to live on Harper’s land. Henry and his wife were the parents to five daughters and nine sons, one son being (Henry) Victor, born in 1880.  

In about 1910, Vic with his wife Eudora, (nee Crossing), established a home and farm beside what became known as Turnbull Creek, a small creek running parallel to Putty Creek on its eastern side.   It was from there that Vic operated the Putty Post Office after it was officially reopened in 1927.


Their home could be seen towards the North-East of Putty and included the Post Office. The homestead was extensive with a dairy, sheds, yards, a calf paddock, a bull paddock, an orchard, a pig run and a cave for a pig called “Old One Ear”. 

Vic had access to “Big Lagoon” which he emptied by digging drains to direct the water into the natural channels of Putty Creek.  Using a horse and scoop, shovels and some unwilling workers, the project took several years.  With the fertile ground exposed, the base of the lagoon became ideal for growing good crops of corn for many years. It also meant that in wet times the corn field became a flood plain. 

The Turnbull family had left Putty before my family and I arrived. Not much was left of the buildings and only a few pieces of machinery were lying about.  It was still easy to see where buildings and yards had been and remaining in place was the pig run, an enclosure made from upright ironbark posts sunk into the ground very close together.  In the remains of the orchard were plum and persimmons trees, struggling to bear fruit. Sadly with the passing of time and different owners having their own dreams of how a property should look, nothing but soil and grass is left now. Even the lagoon, painstakingly drained by Vic for crop growing, is full of water again. 

Vic and Eudora became the parents of three daughters and five sons. One in particular, (Garnet) Lloyd, born in 1913, formed a very close bond with Putty which remained with him until the day he died. His life was the land.  He went to school at Putty, liked Mr. Paul his teacher but did not like school very much.   

Lloyd and his brother Ray did not wear shoes and not too many of the other boys in Putty did either. When the cold of winter came they would run through the paddocks to school to keep warm and when finding a fresh cow pat, even one covered in frost, they would break the frost and stand in the pat to warm their feet. 

As Ray and Lloyd got older and more children were born, their house became so crowded that the two boys were moved out to the side verandah to sleep.  One winter, their sister Edna realised how cold they were so she sewed hessian sacks together and filled the finished product with cornhusks.  The boys now slept warm under the cover of their corn husk doonas which were probably a little scratchier and noisier than the ones of today but just as welcome on cold Putty nights.  

I met Lloyd, his brother Ben and their wives Hannah and Ruth several times at the Putty Hall dances which they often attended up until about 1990. Lloyd never lost his love for Putty and made many trips back to the home of his boyhood for a look around.


Chapter 15 –Social Events

 A Trip to Putty. 

At the invitation of Mr. and Mrs. R. Ridge, a party of ladies and gentlemen accompanied by R. Hennesay of Comleroy Road journeyed to Putty to a picnic and dance held on Friday the 22nd inst. (of May). About fifty couples sat down to a sumptuous repast provided by the hostess and others.  After lunch, games and sports were indulged in then dancing commenced at 7 p.m. and was kept up with great vigour until the small hours of the morning.  The music was first-class being supplied by Mr. A. Bowman assisted by Mr. M.J. Butler.  After spending a most enjoyable time, the party dispersed for their homes. Too much praise cannot be accorded to Mr. and Mrs. Ridge for this kind way in which they treated their Comleroy visitors who stayed a few days admiring the beauties of Putty thence returning home on Tuesday after a very pleasant trip. (extract Singleton Argus 3rd June, 1896) 


 An Easter Celebration 

A ball and supper was held at the residence of Mr W.A.Jackson on Easter Monday night and the function was a great success.  About 40 couples danced to music provided by Mrs. Victor Turnbull, Miss Minnie Turnbull, Messrs J. Dodds, L. Café and H.S & A. Turnbull.  The M.C. was Mr. Victor Turnbull.  Supper was served at midnight and full justice was done to the tempting foods which included poultry, sucking pigs and sweets of all kinds.  Dancing was continued until 5 o’clock on Tuesday morning.  During intervals, songs were rendered by Misses J. and M. Turnbull and the vocal numbers were much appreciated.  Thanks are due to Mr. W. A.Jackson who so kindly provided the floor for dancing. 

The dresses worn by the ladies were a credit to the district. Those worthy of special mention were: Miss Doris Merrick, kingfisher blue satin and cherry trimming; Miss Phyllis Merrick, pink satin charmante; Miss A. Chapman, hand-embroidered tulle; Miss Valda Merrick, buttercup satin and king fisher blue trimming; Miss V. Harris, green satin; Miss M. Chapman, blue georgette over maize; Miss M. Merrick, shot taffeta; Miss L. Harris, navy silk.(Extract Singleton Argus13 April 1912.) 

The ladies wore dainty little strappy high heeled shoes and carried a little purse to compliment their frocks.  The men wore dress trousers, jackets and a tie and their shoes were a soft soled dancing pump made for gliding gracefully with their dancing partner.  For the extra touch, “Pops” or sawdust laced with kerosene was sprinkled liberally on the timber dance floor to make it even more user-friendly.  

Dancing and feasting until the wee small hours of the morning seemed a regular occurrence.  People arrived at functions either on foot or by their horse and cart, in daylight hours. Finding the track back home on a moonlit night was no problem but on one of those deep dark nights in Putty when you cannot see your hand in front of your face, neither could the tracks be seen.  Hence, revellers stayed until daybreak and I don’t wonder why.  I know firsthand that walking around the Putty bush on a very dark night is scary.  There is definitely “things” out there! 


Cricket matches

Cricket was a favourite pastime and games held were mainly between the Putty and Howes Valley Cricket Clubs although a team from Bulga would on occasion join in.  So important were they that the results of the games and the names and achievements of the players were reported, always in great detail in the next edition of the Singleton Argus.  Of course a picnic lunch followed each event with a “sumptuous repast provided by the ladies.”  

However, things did not always go well for the cricket club as at one stage, in early 1906, a meeting was held at Mr Turnbull’s residence where “it was unanimously decided to sell the cricket material on hand, disband the club and after paying a small debt, that the balance be handed to the Singleton Hospital.” (extract Singleton Argus 24th February, 1906).   Perhaps the disastrous fire of 1905 coupled with the deaths of William Harris, Andrew Laycock and Robert Ridge around this time, affected people so much that cricket was no longer a game to be enjoyed.   

In later years, cricket had resurgence in Putty.  A concrete pitch was constructed nearby the Putty hall and games continued well into the 1960’s.  In the late 1940’s when my husband Kendall was just a young boy, his parents would bring him and his grandmother Stella (nee Greentree) to Putty where they would lean over the fence to watch the games.  He never questioned why, you don’t as a child, but as history has unfolded it revealed that his ancestor Reuben Greentree married Ann Farlow, May Elizabeth Harris’ great Aunt.  So watching the cricket and catching up with her rellies would have made it a nice outing for his Nana.


 Chapter 16-Putty Hall, Picnic Races, WW1 and Sue Harris 

The social life in Putty during its early years was quite diverse not only involving cricket matches and dances but also horse racing, athletic carnivals, card games and ping pong.  People from Putty, Howes Valley and further afield gathered together for these events which were, along with many parties for special occasions held in private homes. There was always a meal to be shared after which furniture would be rearranged to allow space for the lovers of Terpsichore, the art of dancing, to trip the light fantastic. 

William Jackson, Arthur Barwick, Vic Turnbull and Ma Harris regularly provided their homes for various types of functions as did Andrew Laycock prior to his death and Robert Ridge before he left Putty.  As the population of Putty Increased, so did the need for somewhere larger than the dining and lounge rooms of a family home, somewhere suitable to accommodate all the guests at the functions.  This led to the idea of building a public hall.   

New to Putty was (Daniel) Steve Ellis.  Steve originally came from Gloucester but after venturing south to Kurrajong he, along with other drovers often moved cattle from there to areas north. He described the road from Kurrajong to Putty as more often than not, an indistinct track through the timber and bush grasses. He had arranged to visit Putty with his draught horse stallion to service mares and decided to stay. He purchased the property that was once Henry Laycock’s and named his home “Fairview”. 

Steve Ellis, Wilfred Cobcroft and George Gibbs were the principal movers in securing land on which to build the hall.  Subsequently, the land for the hall was donated by Steve after having been allocated by ballot to him from land offered by Mr. A. E. Merrick.  This land may have been land acquired previously by a mortgagor via default of mortgage conditions. Construction of the hall began sometime prior to 1913 as it was in that year when George Gibbs, William Frazer and Wilfred Cobcroft were appointed trustees of the land on which a hall existed.  Timber stumps were used for the foundations and adzed poles were sunk into the ground in readiness for the walls.  On examination it is possible that the dance floor was in place before the walls and roof were built.  It was built as a multi-purpose hall, described on the transfer document as, “for the use of the residents of Putty for public, religious and social gatherings and for such other purposes as the said residents may from time to time determine”.  The Putty hall was officially opened on 17th October, 1918.  When built, it was a substantial structure of hardwood, measuring 40ft by 20ft expected to be of service for many years to come. 

Across Putty Creek, just behind the hall, was the race track on land which Steve Ellis had bought from Henry Jackson Jnr. Regular gala events and annual picThe social life in Putty during its early years was quite diverse not only involving cricket matches and dances but also horse racing, athletic carnivals, card games and ping pong.  People from Putty, Howes Valley and further afield gathered together for these events which were, along with many parties for special occasions held in private homes. There was always a meal to be shared after which furniture would be rearranged to allow space for the lovers of Terpsichore, the art of dancing, to trip the light fantastic. 

William Jackson, Arthur Barwick, Vic Turnbull and Ma Harris regularly provided their homes for various types of functions as did Andrew Laycock prior to his death and Robert Ridge before he left Putty.  As the population of Putty Increased, so did the need for somewhere larger than the dining and lounge rooms of a family home, somewhere suitable to accommodate all the guests at the functions.  This led to the idea of building a public hall.   

New to Putty was (Daniel) Steve Ellis.  Steve originally came from Gloucester but after venturing south to Kurrajong he, along with other drovers often moved cattle from there to areas north. He described the road from Kurrajong to Putty as more often than not, nic races were held there.  Many outside entries were invited and some came from as far away as Fordwich and Maitland.  Dances, of course with “sumptuous” suppers, usually followed the racing events and proceeds from both were spent on social and religious needs and hall improvements. On other occasions, special events were held so that money could be donated to the Putty Anglican Church or Putty school as well as Dangar Hospital in Singleton where many a person from Putty received care. 

1914 and the First World War was declared. This saw an upheaval in the lives of all Australians including those living in the small village of Putty. Five young Putty men enlisted to serve.  They were Clarrie Cross, George Gibbs, Carrington Laycock, Jack (Jonas) Medhurst and Roland Merrick. Clarrie served in Alexandria and France, George in Suez, Port Said, Egypt, Ismailia and Moascan and Jack was a ‘tunneller’ in France, Omer and Boulogne.  Carrington and Roland did not embark for overseas service. Thankfully all the Putty men returned home safely. 

Ma Harris continued to live in Putty with her girls. Not long after Steve Ellis arrived in Putty, he and one of Ma’s daughters Sue (Rachael Susannah) were married. They set up home at “Fairview” in 1923 and their four children, Owen, James, Vera and Fay were born. Over time, Steve purchased a number of other properties throughout Putty, including those originally owned by members of the Laycock family.
















Ma Harris with five of her  nine daughters.                       Steve & Sue Ellis with            Sue Ellis is standing rear left                                                 son Owen       


Chapter 17 –Telephonic Communication, Bulga to Putty 

In 1911, A PETITION was prepared to present to the Postal and Telegraph Department to establish telephonic communication from Bulga to Howes Valley and thence to Putty.  Signatures were sourced from Singleton, Broke, Wollombi, Howes Valley and Putty. The petition pointed out that Putty was 40 miles (64 Kilometres) from Bulga which was the nearest telephone office and 60 miles (96 Kilometres) from Windsor where the Land Board business, as far as Putty was concerned was carried out.  All other business, including banking, was carried out in Singleton and it was only considered right that Howes Valley and Putty be connected with this centre. Mr. W. Merrick had the matter in hand and hoped for a successful conclusion.(Extract Singleton Argus 2nd September, 1911)

 On the 29th June, 1914, a proposal was received from the Postmaster General’s Department. It included the number of poles required and the amount of wire necessary. The very detailed estimated cost of the line was 765 pounds ($1530.00). The residents were required to contribute approximately one third of this amount or as an alternative, they could supply and erect the poles themselves under supervision, in which case the Department would pay them to do the work.  The telephone line from Bulga to Putty would need a total of 761 poles, ranging in length from 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.5 metres). The Department would supply the 40 miles plus 25 chains (total of 65 Kilometres) of wire and insulators etc., to be fixed on poles and trees. The lines would need to be maintained by the residents upon payment to them of 5 per cent of the cost of construction. (extracted from Singleton Argus, Thursday 9 July 1914)


A TELEPHONE LINE HAS BEEN COMPLETED IN HOWE’S VALLEY, 34 miles (55 km) from Singleton and it is proposed to link the connection as far as Putty.  The telephone will be a great boon in these settlements. The first message from Howe’s Valley was received on Monday by a local firm of auctioneers, who were advised that three stockowners at Putty were sending in consignments for Wednesday’s stock sales.  The auctioneer thus had ample time to make arrangements for the disposal of the cattle. (The Maitland Daily Mercury 12 November, 1915) 

It was not even a year and a half after the proposal was received that Howes Valley residents had a telephone in their home and the Putty residents, just one month later. What an amazing feat especially considering the equipment they had at their disposal. With no cherry picker or crane in sight, horses, ropes and pulleys would have been used to erect the poles and ladders to reach their tops to fix wires. (And for the curious, cherry pickers were invented by Mr. Jay Eitel, an American, in 1944 initially for just that reason.) 

Friday 10th inst. (December 1915)was A RED LETTER DAY IN THE HISTORY OF THE PUTTEYITES. The advent of the opening of the telephone extension to Putty was celebrated by a social evening at Green Hills, the residence of Mrs. M.E. Harris to which invitations were extended far and wide.  The assemblage included visitors from Broke, Bulga, Howe’s Valley and surrounding districts. The organisation of the function was in the capable hands of Mr. R.D Merrick and included dancing and supper set up in a marquee decorated in luxurious fashion. A number of speeches were made befitting the occasion and special mention for bringing the proposal to a successful conclusion was made to Mr. Joel Atkin of Singleton and Mr. W. Jackson (since moved to Denman) who may be termed the fathers of the movement. With determined effort, the residents placed all the poles required on the line and erected 118.   The balance of the work was carried out by the Postal Department under the supervision of Mr. Croese and his gang of men. (Extract Singleton Argus Thursday 16th December, 1915)



  Although the Howes Valley-Putty telephone line has been open for business for some time nothing had been done to celebrate the opening up till recently.  The celebrations took the form of a social evening and banquet attended by over sixty people from Bulga, Howes Valley and Putty and was held at the Howes Valley Hall on Friday 28th ult, February 1916 and was an unprecedented success. 

Mr. Fleming, M.H.R. paid glowing tributes to Mr. W. H. Merrick and Mr. W. Jackson, the primary movers for the phone and to Mr. Joel Atkin, Messrs W. MacTaggart Sen. W. Halton and B.G. Harris Sen. and the contractor, Mr. Joe Merrick. 

About 6 a.m. the company dispersed, satisfied they had done much good in assisting in the establishment of the phone which brings their district commercially and socially within closer reach of the outside world.  (extract Singleton Argus February 8 1916)




Chapter 18 – Putty residents, where they lived. 

The State Elections for the 23rd parliament was held on the 6th December, 1913.

Putty was a registered polling place and the State Electoral Roll, 1912-1913 for the District of Singleton was published.  The “ROLL OF ELECTORS WHO VOTE AT PUTTY POLLING PLACE” was made up with the names of twenty three males and thirteen females, their place of residence and their occupation listed. 


Most Putty families were quite large, with up to thirteen children not unusual.  But unless these children were older than twenty one years of age they were not eligible to vote so were not included on the roll.  With children added to the number of adults on the electoral roll, the population in Putty in 1913 could have been somewhere around one hundred and fifty. 


Living in what could be classed as the centre of Putty were John, Leo and Sophia Café, Walter Carey, William and Amelia Jackson, George and Cardinal Laycock, Frederick Lovell, James Martin, the school teacher, Ada, Eliza, Jonathan and Joshua Medhurst, Albert, Catherine, Catherine Jnr., Roland, Wilhemina and William Merrick and William and William Claude Sylvester.


Further to the west at Condon Clear were the Cobcrofts and Mary Café. At Long Swamp (now Bakers Road and Putty Valley Road corner) were William and Mary Fraser and Catherine and George Gibbs, (Snr.) 


May Harris was at Green Hill, the Chapman family was and still is at Burrowell.  Tommy Cross and his family were at Boggy Swamp and Henry and Eudora Turnbull managed the Post Office at Happy Valley. James Duff ran his grazing enterprise at Kindarun.



 Ma Harris's home at Greenhills, Circa 1930 

The electoral roll stated that the men were graziers, labourers and farmers and the women carried out the domestic duties.  Domestic duties?? Hmmm, and all the other farm work that needed to be done as well.  No set job description in those days, ladies.

Just in case you were wondering, the Australian Labor Party was re-elected, with William Holman as Premier. 

You have probably come to realise that the Laycock, Cobcroft, Jackson, Merrick, Café, Taggart, Medhurst, Gibbs and Harris families joined through marriage, continuing this trend in later years with the Ridge and Turnbull families.  By the turn of the century, just about everyone in Putty was on a branch, a twig or a leaf of the same family tree. 

Interaction with neighbours extended for quite a distance and it seemed that Howes Valley and Putty were almost as one with family members coming and going between the two places, especially when a dance, a church service, a sporting event, or a party was being held or there was major work to be done. Even school classes were held on a half time basis on alternate days at the two locations.  Getting about was either on horseback or by horse and cart, sometimes even on foot. These were still the days before the first motor car had arrived in Putty.  

Go back to when Hannah Laycock took possession of Putty Farm in 1824.  Could she have possibly imagined when she and her son Samuel set foot on their chosen piece of land that over the following 100 years Putty would develop at the speed it did and become home to as many people as it did. 


Chapter 19 (a) -Where Pioneers Rest, in Putty 

There are many lost and forgotten graves in cemeteries right across the rural areas of Australia including those in Putty and Howes Valley.  In Putty there are four small cemeteries and to the north at Howes Valley, seven more.  All are located on private property. Except for the information I was provided with by the Singleton Historical Society, no official records exist to acknowledge the grave sites of some of the original pioneers and their children who lived and died at Putty and Howes Valley




Laycock family members share the graveyard which was established on George Laycock’s property adjacent to the original 100 acre Putty Farm. Some of the headstones still remain standing but over the years, most have crumbled and show no distinguishing marks.


Robert Laycock, son of Mary and Thomas W.E.B. Laycock was the first person to be buried there in 1866 followed by his mother in July 1878 and his father in 1881.  With them are Mary & Thomas’ sons Henry, buried 1904, Andrew, 1908 and daughter Emily Jane Cobcroft, 1925. 

















 Madeline and baby Kenneth, children of Emily and her husband Oliver Cobcroft share the space. George and Ada Laycock’s four year old daughter, Mable Irene, and a baby, twin to their son Kenneth are also there. 



The Merrick Cemetery can be found beside the old homestead “Hillview”.  In it are four graves enclosed within a cyclone fence. The headstones mark the graves of William and Catherine Merrick who died in 1952 and 1966 respectively, their daughter Hilti Cobcroft who died in 1929 and their son Claud Carlton Merrick who died at four and a half years of age in 1908. 














Hilti's headstgone has become unreadable.  

HILTI ANGELINA COBCROFT, Who died 3rd October, 1929,aged 36 years  




At the old Medhurst property, once named “Herligwoods” is the Medhurst family cemetery.  Resting in it are Joshua Amzi Medhurst who died in 1929 and his baby daughter Edna Maud who was only one month old when she died in 1913.














                                               Headstone of Joshua Medhurst

Joshua and his wife Ada had a sad and unfortunate life enduring the death of seven of their children for varying reasons. Joshua committed suicide at age fifty seven while of “unsound mind”.  

The third headstone in the cemetery is shared by the baby daughters of Albert and Nina Medhurst, Betty and Audrey, born two years apart and dying two years apart in 1932 and 1934. Time has worn both of these headstones with inscriptions difficult to read as has the one for little Edna Maud.









In a lonely spot at Roswell is the grave of Jonathan and Eliza Medhurst’s little son Milton Norman who died in 1913 aged only seven months.  He lies alone on what was once his parent’s property. Many years later, property owner, Margaret Pierce placed a memorial plaque on the small wooden structure surrounding Milton’s grave. 

I don’t imagine for a minute that I have located all the grave sites in Putty. Possibly there are more as death through misadventure would not have been uncommon during the first few years of settlement.  Most of the burials were performed with honour and respect, others with perhaps just a shovel.


Chapter 19 (b) - Where Pioneers Rest, Cemeteries north of Putty 

Both Putty and Howes Valley were well populated during the first one hundred years of settlement. Families moved between the two villages, living where they chose, dying there or elsewhere but lay to rest where their families chose. Some never left the places where they were born, while others were buried far from home. 


I have located seven cemeteries to the north of Putty and in this chapter I will begin with the three closest to Putty. 


AT BOGGY SWAMP, where Robert Ridge Jnr. and his wife Esther lived, there is a small cemetery containing three headstones.  With the death of their first baby Lillian, Robert and Esther established the cemetery and over following years lay to rest two more of their children alongside her. The lettering on the headstone appears to have been hand chiselled possibly by their loving father.


















Of the other two headstones, one is so badly crumbled that establishing whose memory it holds is not possible.  

The third is that of John Medhurst.  John and his wife Sarah were living at Howes Valley at the time of his death so why his family chose to bury him at Boggy Swamp remains a mystery to me.